|Vol. VII, No. 6
Elul 5609, Sept. 1849
Parliament—Jewish Disabilities Bill.—In the House of Lords on the 26th June, the Earl of Carlisle, in moving the second reading on this bill, spoke long and eloquent in advocacy of the justice and expediency of the measure, which he said was not, like that of last session, simply confined to the admission of Jews to Parliament, but went to amend and simplify the oaths taken by members of other religious persuasions. The Jews, he said, though admitted to municipal privileges, were the only religious community debarred of political rights. The noble lord then combated, in detail, the various objections against the measure, and, in conclusion, called upon their lordships to act in the spirit of Christianity, by doing unto others ass they would that others should do unto them, in removing the last remnant of intolerance from the statute book by admitting a long-oppressed race to the sign and substance of equality still denied them, and rendering thus a just measure of reparation for all the wrongs and woes of the past.
The Earl of Eglinton objected to the bill, chiefly on religious grounds. The Jews suffered no persecution in this country; but the solemn duty of their lordships was not to permit those who did not believe in Christ to legislate for a Christian Church and nation. He moved that the bill be read a second time that day three months.
The Duke of Cleveland thought, after the Quakers, Moravians, and every class of dissenters had been admitted to seats in Parliament, would be a great hardship and injustice to exclude Jews, being British-born subjects of her Majesty. He supported the bill.
The Archbishop of Canterbury believed that the effect of the bill would be to lower the character and obligations of members of parliament, by making it a matter of indifference whether they belonged to the Christian communion.
The Archbishop of Dublin supported the bill, as neither inconsistent with the principles, nor repugnant to the genius of Christianity; that there was no justification for the continuing of the exclusion of the Jews; and that their lordships must either retrace their steps, and exclude from office all who did not belong to the established church or they must, in consistency, consent to the abrogation of this last restriction.
The Bishop of Exeter opposed the bill. He observed that in a republic all had an equal right to admission to the offices of the state; but ours was a monarchy, in which the sovereign was bound by oath <<326>>to maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and more particularly the Protestant reformed religion established in the kingdom. Parliament was the great council of the nation, the council of the Crown, and was sworn to be the protector of the true religion; therefore every one admitted to it must be ready and able to give faithful advice to the Crown in the discharge of its duties. Could a Jew be a faithful counsellor of the crown in maintaining to the utmost the true profession of the Gospel? This could not be admitted for an instant. He had no wish to quote Scripture in the heat of debate; but he felt no scruple in telling noble lords that Parliament was bound, as every individual was bound, to remember that “whatever we do, whether in word or in deed,” we are to do all “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
The Earl of Shrewsbury considered this more a political than a religious measure. He could see in it nothing but the necessary carrying out of the great principle of civil and religions liberty, now so intimately interwoven with the Constitution.
The Earl of Winchelsea denounced the bill as one of an infidel and unchristian character, calculated to draw down the judgments of Almighty God upon a country which, like two other Protestant countries, Holland and Sweden, had stood secure amid the wreck and chaos of the civilized world, solely because, in the midst of their many sins, they had held fast the faith which God had blessed, and put their hopes and confidence in him.
The Duke of Argyle had heard with great regret and some astonishment the noble Earl (Winchelsea) stigmatize, as he had done, a measure supported by a very large portion of that House, and just advocated by a father of the Christian Church.
The Earl of Dysart recognised the Jews as fellow-citizens and fellowsubjects, but could not acknowledge them as fellow-legislators, and, therefore opposed the bill.
The Bishop of Oxford [Dr. Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce of the slave-trade abolition memory,] professed the kindest feelings toward the Jews, individually, but would not admit them into Parliament; for, by so doing, they would destroy the foundations of the greatness of that Christian England, which had hitherto afforded them an asylum.
Lord Brougham ridiculed the alarms of the Right Reverend Prelate as the most extravagant of all chimeras. Having accorded to members of the Hebrew persuasion judicial functions, official station, and the elective franchise, with power to canvass and spend money at elections, it was absurd attempting to draw an impassable line between those <<327>>concessions and their admission to seats in the Legislature. They had admitted the Roman Catholics, he said, not because they did not dare to exclude them, but because it was a wise, honourable, and sound policy to admit them. But if they now excluded the Jews only because they dared to exclude them easily, then he would say that their lordships would be casting a backward look upon their past conduct, which would do the Jews less harm than it would do their lordships discredit.
The Earl of Carlisle, in reply, said, with reference to the Roman Catholic oath, that he presumed it was not the wish of the House of Commons to disturb the settlement of 1829; but he would take, with pleasure, any opportunity of placing the Roman Catholics on a level with their Protestant brethren, in this as well as in every other respect.
The House then divided, and the numbers were, content, 70; noncontent, 95; majority against the reading, 25. The bill is, consequently, lost.—N. Y. Tribune.